New staff at JTH suggests that the all white company of lawyers should be looking for a black articled clerk, but Jansen has other ideas.
This is chapter 18 from A Family Affair by Bernard Preston.
Book one of this trilogy you can read for free; but it's an early unedited edition. If you're enjoying the saga, do yourself a favour and enjoy it rather on your smartphone or tablet; the Kindle app is free at Amazon. Ebooks are cheap.
Janet Twycross and Santie Veenstra have a vastly different upbringing; their paths are about to cross for the first time.
‘So, why do you have to go to Jo’burg to find yourself a man?’
‘Jenny, just because you only came back from honeymoon last week, please don’t go making assumptions. I’m not going to Jo’burg to find a soul mate. I’m going for my career, for heaven’s sake!’
‘Girls, girls, are you quarrelling again?’ Barbara Twycross, their mother, emerged onto the sunny veranda where the twins were sipping juice and nibbling from a bowl of fruit. She was dragging a small suitcase, on her way to the first day of term at St Catherine’s.
‘It’s just, well, fancy going to live in Johannesburg, Mum.’
‘I could just as easily say, fancy going to live in Harrismith, and marrying an apple farmer. You’ll be bored stiff within two weeks.’
‘How dare you!’
‘Won’t you two ever grow up? I’m off to school. Try and finish the grapes of wrath before your father joins you, won’t you? Bye,’ she said, determinedly turning her back on her daughters.
‘Seriously, Jenny, don’t you think you’ll be bored?’
‘No, I’m going to have my hands full finding a market for John’s apples in Europe, Janet.’ Jenny reached across the table laying her hand on her twin’s arm. ‘I’m sorry about that snide remark about Johannesburg. I deserved that repost!’ she said, making a hopeless gesture. ‘Oh look, there’s Heather Fawcett’s mum. A little sister, I suppose.’ Across the street, expensive looking cars were making their way up the avenue of trees to the entrance to St Catherine’s for the start of the summer term. Their mother turned and gave them wave in the distance. She always walked, even if it was pouring with rain.
They heard a shuffling sound at the patio door. Their father, Henry Twycross, emerged in a pinstripe suit, obviously in a hurry. ‘I’ve just time for a glass of orange juice with you, girls. I suppose this is the last time we see you for a while.’
’Fraid so, Dad,’ said Janet, ‘but we’ll be back, don’t worry.’
Their father nodded, wiping his mouth. ‘Please phone, you know how we’re going to miss you. I take it you are going to drop Jenny on the way to Johannesburg, Janet.’ The twins nodded, saying nothing. Henry Twycross scraped back his chair, gave each of his daughters a hug, and strode off in the direction of the garage, their Staffie, Maxi, barking at his heels.
‘So, a new era for us both, Janet. Me to a backwater, and you to the bright lights. Do you think we’ll be happy?’
‘The parson’s egg, Jen. Well, I know you and John will be happy, and for me, it’s the big unknown … Jo’burg, city of gold. I hope I can make lots of it.’
‘All that glisters …’
‘Yes, yes, you know what I mean.’ She smiled vaguely, staring across the road to see if their mother had been swallowed up by her school.
‘Miss Veenstra, why have you applied for this position?’ A surprised look darkened Jan Jansen’s handsome features. ‘I see from your submission that you have a commitment to work for the Department of Justice for another three years,’ he said, eyes glinting. The chairman of Jansen, Thomas and Hansen had a hard look about him that Santie didn’t like.
Santie squirmed, feeling and looking unusually nervous. Oddly, because her confidence had blossomed under The Bitch’s six months of tyranny, but later she reasoned this was, after all, her first ever real job interview. University life had been her first real taste of freedom since her mother had died, and she relished the opportunity the Department of Justice had given her to escape from what she once took to be her ordained fate to be just another abused and deprived female, and a life long victim of happenstance.
Few things rankled more than the thought of a humdrum existence, so she had grasped with every fibre of her being the all-expenses-paid opportunity to study law. Only in the domain of personal relationships was progress slower. Few managed to get close to Santie and, of those who did, not one was of the male sex. Someone leaked her Police College nickname. She pretended that it didn’t bother but she remained socially awkward, often reacting with extreme aggression when crossed by a man.
She would lie in bed sometimes, angry with herself when a tear was shed in secret, longing for someone to share her fears. But there was no one. She even thought once or twice of going to visit her father, or her aunt, but quickly slammed that door. Of course, Santie was quite well aware that the first time of doing anything could be a little intimidating, and her first ever job interview would certainly not be the exception that proved the rule. Not afraid to aim high she longed for challenges. Colleagues often described her as ambitious, and she was not ashamed of it.
Her friend and mentor at the Police College, recognising her talent, had warned her of the danger of aiming too low, and hitting the target, so she carefully chose a firm with a reputation for being a leader in constitutional law. The two attorneys staring at her across the table were not in the slightest friendly, the question intentionally phrased in a cold and intimidating manner. There had been serious disagreement between them as to whether Santie’s application should be added to the short list.
‘Your advert in the Times says that you are looking for two persons of exceptional ability. I completed my LLB cum laude.’ Santie smiled nervously, her anxiety making her prim.
Miss Hansen, the other attorney, cleared her throat, speaking for the first time, cutting an even sharper tone. She hadn’t greeted Santie, or introduced herself on arriving late for the interview. ‘Do you have any idea what it would cost us to buy you out from the Department of Justice?’
Santie nodded. ‘I know it’s a lot of money. You won’t be sorry.’
The mood of the meeting quickly turned ugly. ‘Why are you so keen to leave the Police service?’ Mr Jansen butted in. ‘And why did you not make this clear in your initial application?’ They hadn’t realized in advance that Miss Veenstra came with attachments.
They both scowled and Miss Hansen gave Jansen a sort of I told you so glare. They had spent several hours studying Santie’s career path, and finally did make a joint decision that she might fit the bill, but only after bitter initial disagreement. This was a setback for Jansen and he knew there would be another tirade from Marjorie once Santie left.
‘I did state quite clearly in my submission that the Department of Justice had paid for my education. I presumed you would make the normal assumptions. I have worked for them for two years now but I’m afraid I see no future for myself there.’ Santie tried to say it plainly, as though it were the most natural thing in the world for them to pay out a large sum of money to acquire her services, but had the feeling that it cut no ice with the two hardened lawyers. Miss Hansen poured herself a cup of coffee, pointed offering nothing to her either of her adversaries.
Jansen nodded, noting with pleasure the first signs of doubt clouding the young woman’s handsome features. ‘I see you wrote three papers for your Masters during those two years with Justice. The one on the dire need for an upgrade in forensics is self-evident, of course.’ He managed to say it with a deprecating smile, continuing, ‘but that paper on Constitutional Law interests me. But first tell us: is it criminal or constitutional law that interests you?’
‘Very definitely constitutional law. I found that paper on criminal law laborious and it made me realize that I have no desire to further my career in the Department of Justice.’
Miss Hansen softened a little: ‘Miss Veenstra, I must say that I found all three of those papers quite impressive, and I have read the complimentary reviews in the Law Journal and, in fact, at parliamentary level. “An up-coming young lawyer to keep an eye on.” She raised an eyebrow, sensing that her partner would make no progress with the young woman seated in front of them, and she might in fact turn out to good ally in the firm. ‘You made an impressive appeal against a federal constitution, quite contrary to our firm’s opinions, so why J,T&H?’
‘Despite being an all-white firm, I’ve been told you have been in contact with the ANC . It will not be long, in my opinion, before they are unbanned and could easily be the party of the future. I too have been doing my homework, you see.’
‘Hmff!’ Jansen grunted. Arrogant bitch. ‘Most of that was done by Mr Thomas and he will be retiring soon.’
‘That’s another reason I chose J,T&H. After all ..’ Santie confidence had faltered just a little, but now rose again. Buoyed for a moment she tried a little smile but Mr Jansen and Miss Hansen ignored her, exchanged glances, not sure what to make of Santie’s statement. Who was being interviewed after all? Jansen remarked later. ‘After all, I do want to work in a progressive firm.’
‘Your paper on national conscription is interesting,’ remarked Miss Hansen, starting to thaw. ‘Why did you choose such a controversial subject?’
‘It’s my opinion that we are going to have a manpower crisis in the near future. Perhaps even more seriously, a womanpower crisis.’
‘Explain!’ snapped Jansen. He had a strange feeling he was being sidelined by the two women.
‘What with the brain drain caused by Apartheid, and the heedless self-interest of thinking that white people should provide all of South Africa’s needs, research conclusively shows we are heading for a severe shortage of skilled workers. Apartheid isn’t just bad morality; it’s bad economics too.’
‘True, but why include women in a national conscription? What would be the point?’ Jansen asked, in a mocking tone.
‘Oh, snap out of it, Jan. Standing barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen! Is that it?’
Santie’s took Miss Hansen’s cue, deciding that the best form of defence was attack. As a modus operandi it had served her well in the past, even if it meant not getting the job. ‘I’m sorry, sir, but if you read that paper more carefully, you would have noted that I spoke only of selected women who have successfully completed their schooling. At the moment we have a crisis with girls leaving school with a matriculation, and no clear path to employment. It is to them primarily that I addressed that paper.’
‘Touché! You’re quite right, but what exactly are you suggesting …?’
‘Using young women for say nine to twelve months in schools and hospitals, social work and even the police force. It would expose them to the professions, and give the State a form of natural selection for those worthy of the investment in further training.’ She was becoming irritated with Jansen, sensing that behind the façade was a very little man.
‘Well, …’ Santie hesitated, not sure how far she should go. ‘It’s my candid opinion that parliament has been pursuing policies that are contrary to the needs of South Africa. Our country needs some bold experimentation with new ideas and I think it’s essential that women should be there to spearhead some of these new initiatives. We’ve been held back for too long …’ Santie stopped short.
Miss Hansen cleared her throat noisily and quickly took a different tack before her partner should explode: ‘I see you only completed your matriculation while you were with the Police. Did you have a difficult childhood?’
‘Yes, I did.’ Santie added nothing more.
They waited, hoping she would add something more. When it was clear she wasn’t going to, Jansen said: ‘Thank you for coming, Miss Veenstra. You will hear from us either way within a week. Dismissed.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘I said, dismissed!’
Santie hesitated. ‘I am not accustomed to being spoken to in that manner, Mr Jansen.’ She frowned, unsure. ‘I am not yet in your employ to be dismissed.’
Jansen watched her scrape back her chair noisily, standing. Santie shrugged on her jacket and with a dismissive flick of her thick hair stormed out, her face burning.
Is homosexuality wrong is probably the most thorny question facing the church today. In a family affair Bernard Preston is searching for answers; at new staff at JTH is where it all begins.
A Family Affair does not extol the virtues of the gay lifestyle.
Rather, for better for worse, it exists, it's here to stay, and we
straight folk had better get used to that. The new staff at JTH have embraced it.
A Family Affair is Bernard Preston's journey of discovery about an alternative lifestyle.
But homosexual promiscuity is punished by life in the same way as hetero is. So Santie finds out...
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